BOOK REVIEW


The Children of Children Keep Coming:

An Epic GriotSong

by Russell L. Goings

 


From her seat on the bus,
Rosa Parks waves at
The children of children crossing
Selma's bridge and instructs:

Face the hoods and robes.
Face the burning crosses.
Face the hangman's noose.
Face the biting dogs.
Face the madness of Jim Crow.
Face those who ride at night.
Face the shameless who inflame.
                                                        
                                         


 
 
The Children of Children Keep Coming
by Russell L. Goings

Published by
Karen Hunter Publishing
Pocket Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster
Cover Art and Illustrations:  Romare Bearden
Glossary
First Edition
2009
ISBN 13:978-1-4165-6646-5
Library of Congress Control Number: 2008022078
Hardcover
320 pages

To Purchase Online

This informative, fast-paced book of poetry by Russell L. Goings is a griotsong.

A griot is a West African storyteller, a musician, a poet who, holding in mind the history of a family or village, chronicles the past by means of oral tradition, sometimes in song.  Because the ability to hold and relay the common narrative of a group of people is considered a spiritual gift and responsibility, the griot is akin to a bard, an epic poet.

The griotsong that unfolds in the book, The Children of Children Keep Coming, is the painful and inspirational story of the African American experience in the United States, beginning with the flight of the enslaved, and culminating with a gathering at the table of larger than life leaders of African American history who take on mythic proportion.

Around the great table,
I see Calli of the valley, linking her
Arms with the children of children
Who link their arms
With the giants and their families:

Among the giants present at this table are Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, John Brown, Nat Turner, DuBois, Dr. King, Malcom X, Sugar Ray Robinson, Adam Clayton Powell, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, the list is pages long.  The personal struggles of many of these giants are relayed, in chronological order inside the griotsong, which is divided into three parts. 1) Taking the Train to Freedom, 2) Jubilee, 3) Celebration of Survival.

The children of children are African American descendents who, despite hardship, slavery, and murder, just keep on coming, keep on persevering, moving from the past to the present.  There is a foreword motion in this epic poem, an inevitability, a pace that propels the reader forward to the next scene in African American history, the next struggle, the next heroic act.

I hear the children of children.
their drums: rap-rap-rap-rap-rap.
their feet: tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.
Their hands: clap-clap-clap-clap-clap.

The griot relating this tale, Russell Goings, assumes the persona and voice of the major figures in the African American story.

For example, Frederick Douglass speaks:

We have a new nation,
A united nation,
A healing nation,
a multiracial nation.



Adam Clayton Powell speaks:

Don't hold on to empty promises,
Like the myth of forty acres and a mule.
Hold onto trust, its thrust goes
Deeper, broader, straighter, higher.


The ability to relate a griotsong is given to only a few.   In this sense, the role of the griot is much like the combined role of the epic poet Homer and the storyteller Ion, whose profession it was to recite Homer. 

The Greek philosopher, Plato, wrote about the phenomenon of epic poetry, "the epic poets, all the good ones, have their excellence, not from art, but are inspired, possessed, and thus they utter all these admirable poems......A poet is a light and winged thing, and holy, and never able to compose until he has become inspired, and is beside himself, and reason is no longer in him."

The Children of Children Keep Coming is relentless in its forward thrust, and inspirational in its steadfast turning toward God for inspiration and assistance. As a result, the story of the children of children does not stop at the end of this book. The pace does not stop, it does not slow, implying that future generations of African Americans will continue forward, without ceasing. 

This book is both history and poetry.  It belongs on the shelf of every public library and every school library, (the glossary of Afro-American historical figures and terms is extremely important).  It belongs in the homes of African Americans who wish to pass down their traditional history, on the shelves of poets and leaders, and in the hands of common folk who care to sit a while and listen to the song of a gifted griot.


Mary Ann Sullivan
The Tower Journal
September 2010